Surrounded by talented freshmen, Michigan's Trey Burke shows why he's still the team's top gun
ANN ARBOR -- If Trey Burke has proven anything during his short tenure at Michigan, it's that people should really never doubt him.
Surrounded by an upstart freshman class that oozes athleticism and the ability to play above the rim, Burke says he's taken a few lumps from teammates early this season with questions about his ability to get up in the air.
So, after Burke stole a Western Michigan pass early in the second half Tuesday, the 6-foot All-American point guard raced toward the Michigan hoop, skied above the rim and flushed down a one-handed slam to put the Wolverines up 16 points.
Then, moments later, he let his teammates hear about it during a sideline huddle.
"The guys get on me a lot when I have open opportunities like that," Burke said after the Wolverines' 73-41 win over Western Michigan on Tuesday. "But I just threw it down.
"And there was a TV timeout right afterward, and I kind of told them when we went to the huddle."
Just in case anyone forgot, when it comes to playing basketball at Michigan, Trey Burke's still the boss.
Burke turned in a smooth performance Tuesday that resulted in 20 points and 7 assists with zero turnovers.
He went 8 of 11 from the floor and shot only when he needed to. He continued to find red-hot freshman Nik Stauskas, who buried three 3-pointers and he seemed to set up virtually every one of freshman forward Mitch McGary's career-high 10 points.
In his past three games, Burke has dished out 23 assists and committed just two turnovers. And all the while, he's made it look easy.
"For us bigs to have a point guard with talent like Trey (is huge)," McGary said. "If we set screens, we know he's going to repay us with the ball."
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of freshmen excitement early this season, Burke has lived up to ever bit of his individual preseason hype to this point.
He leads the team with 17 per game. He's shooting 49.5 percent from the floor, and he's averaging 7.1 assists per night.
He's playing defense, too. Burke went through a rigorous strength and conditioning program this offseason that saw him lift more weights and eat up to four meals per day to add 10 pounds to his relatively small frame.
And Tuesday, it paid off -- as he stood in and took two charges, letting his teammates know that not only can he dunk, but he can also take a hit, too.
"He's got an edge of toughness and he's got a pace to him," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "He understands when we need him to do more, and when he need him to just find all these shooters."
Burke has insisted that this season, unlike last year, he spends very little time looking for his own shot. If it's there, he takes it. If not, he finds someone else.
And when it comes to playing defense, he's not afraid to roll up his sleeves -- as evidenced by his three steals Tuesday.
"I don't ever really look for my offense, I just play off what the defense gives us," Burke says. "We don't really force shots. If a guy is (hot), we're going to go to him.
"The offense talks for itself."
He's more complete, he's stronger and he's every bit as confident.
And he's still, very much, the team's best player.
No doubt about it.